35 responses

  1. J (Hot, Holy & Humorous)
    November 9, 2011

    Wonderful post, Sheila. This is such needed information for women who have been sexually mistreated. Their abuse makes me want to pummel the abuser and Satan for distorting what God intended as a beautiful expression of intimacy. But I do know women who have overcome the past and have fabulous sex lives in their marriages. It can be done.

    Isaiah 43:1-2 is one of my favorite passages. Part of it says, “When you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.” We would prefer not to pass through the rivers at all, but sometimes terrible things happen and God can ensure that we are not drowned by our experiences but can push through to His healing. Bless you.
    J (Hot, Holy & Humorous) recently posted…Should You Sext Your Spouse?My Profile

    • Sheila
      November 9, 2011

      Thanks, J!

  2. Juniper
    November 9, 2011

    In one way, this post is not meant for me since I have not experienced abuse. However, I closely identify with much of what was stated. For example, I am angry at God for creating sex, which seems so messy and awkward and even degrading. I do think it is a highly touted myth that sex is supposedly so beautiful since in reality, most women would rather pass on it. I am not in any way bashing men because my husband is the kindest, gentlest person you could imagine. The suggestions given in part three gave my anxiety symptoms just from reading them. My heart goes out to those who have experienced very negative encounters and abuse because it is incredibly painful to contemplate taking these suggestions when sex seems like a punishment, not like love. at all. I am grateful for my children but I will not be having more babies so now there is even less motivation to submit to an act that makes me feel more alienated from my husband, not closer.

    • Sheila
      November 9, 2011

      Juniper, I totally understand where you’re coming from. I really do. I wasn’t abused, either, but I saw sex the same way that you did. It just seemed like it was entirely created for him, and not for me, and that the whole thing was one big lie that other women were going along with because they were supposed to.

      All I can say is that it really, really can be a very beautiful (and awfully fun) thing. And if it hasn’t been that for you, it still can be. It may not seem like it’s possible, but that is how God made it. It’s just been very perverted by so much of society, and made shameful by others, and so it’s a big mess for so many.

      I’m sure your husband would love to really enjoy a sexual life with you that’s truly freeing for both of you, and I do think that’s possible. It just may take a huge leap of faith on your part. And isn’t that what faith is? It’s believing that something is possible even if you can’t see how right now. So you may not be able to see it, but just believe it. And if you can walk in that belief, and keep telling yourself that, and praying it through, God can turn it into something very different for you!

      • Erica
        November 10, 2011

        I just finished reading “Sheet Music” by Dr. Kevin Leman; it helped me A LOT. I was never abused but would sometimes get so bogged down with what society and the enemy has made of sex (cop shows, child abuse, etc) that I would feel sex had become something dirty and tainted with sin. I had to re-learn that God had made sex and made it for OUR PLEASURE (thank you Jesus!)

      • Sheila
        November 10, 2011

        So true, Erica! I stopped watching TV about 12 years ago because it was just so negative. I used to be addicted to ER, but it really killed my libido because everthing was so ugly. When I turned off the television, things became much lighter, you know?

  3. Paul Byerly
    November 9, 2011

    Sheila – Thanks so much for a great article on a topic we need to discuss more. Lori and I went through this, and it’s painful for both the wife and the husband. My advice is to get help as soon as possible. Find someone who has experience dealing with this, and deal with it. The longer it is left alone, the worse it gets, and more difficult it is to get healing.

    The good news is yes, abuse survivors (women and men) can have great sex lives. God delights in healing us and making things we hated things that bring us great joy!
    Paul Byerly recently posted…InconvenienceMy Profile

    • Sheila
      November 9, 2011

      Thanks, Paul! I totally agree: get help! You shouldn’t have to go through this alone, and we’re not meant to go through this alone. And if you can get help early in your marriage, then you’ll make that marriage so much stronger–and more fun!

  4. Helen
    November 9, 2011

    I fully agree with what you wrote Sheila. When I first got married, I found myself “feeling unloved” and “used” because all my husband wanted was to have sex. I saw sex as my husband’s way to GET pleasure not to GIVE pleasure. I never saw it as his way of loving me and taking care of me (which is exactly how he viewed it). That put a bit of a strain on our relationship for a while until I realized that I felt “used” not because of how my husband treated me but because of how I had been treated way before. I had to do some serious re-evaluating and thinking adjustment. But hey – on the other side of it all – one can have victory if they know what the real problem is. Thanks for addressing this – I am sure there’re many women who may struggle with it and don’t even know what’s wrong or how to fix it.

    • Sheila
      November 9, 2011

      Thanks, Helen! I think the more women hear the message from others who have been through it (like you), the better!

  5. Megan
    November 10, 2011

    Thank you for this post, as well as all of your postings. While I’m only 23, and not married just yet- this post is very hopeful. I’m a victim myself, and I’m healing everyday. But I must say, that this post truly made me feel less hopeless for future things that we should be able to look forward to, and more excite to work through what the Lord is calling me to work through. Thank you for being a part of this very process, and sharing your wisdom.

    • Sheila
      November 10, 2011

      You’re so welcome, Megan!

  6. Sharon O
    November 10, 2011

    This post was a good one on a very difficult subject the only thing I would add well ‘could’ add more but the one thing that jumped off the page for me was the comment ‘have your husband tell you he loves you’ during the process of getting close. I would not agree in some cases those words were paired with the ‘touch’ and it is a and can be a trigger. Triggers are not safe and then the whole shutting down will take place. I would add he should tell her at different times in the day as affirmations of his love not ‘just or during’ an intimate moment. Healing is a very delicate walk of two learning to heal together. With God’s help and a new reframing of the concept it can happen but it may also take a professional to ‘get in touch’ with that little girl or boy inside who was wounded.

    • Sheila
      November 10, 2011

      Thanks, Sharon. I agree that often a professional really is needed, and I just want to reiterate that if anyone is really hurting in this area, don’t wait to get help. Get it now, and your marriage will be much stronger for it!

  7. Cheri Gregory
    November 12, 2011

    Sheila —

    Thanks for a sensitive, honest, practical post on this difficult topic!

    Some women who experienced sexual abuse as children end up with unhealthy relationships to food: compulsive overeating, anorexia, bulimia, etc. An eating disorder often becomes a point of contention in the marriage, but it’s not the core issue. The shame and guilt heaped on a woman for being unable to “just be more disciplined” or “stop trying to look like a supermodel” makes things worse.

    When I was 17, I was hospitalized for 6 weeks in an eating disorder unit. I was able to describe to my therapist some of my memories of inappropriate sexual advances made toward me when I was a preschooler, but I did not know who the perpetrator was. And I never figured out what to do with the memories. So I spent a quarter of a century feeling defective, damaged.

    One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2011 was to find a support group. I initially sought one to help me deal with issues in my marriage, but all I could find was an eating disorder group. It seems so obvious now, but at the time I really was clueless that most of “our” marriage issues were actually lingering issues from my eating disorder.

    “Listen, ladies. If you’ve been abused, something was stolen from you as a child. But you’re an adult now, and it’s up to you whether or not you want to let that abuser keep stealing from you, or whether you’re going to pursue wholeness again. Please pursue wholeness. I know it may seem impossible to believe, but you can achieve it. God can fight for you. ”

    You bring up such a core truth, here. I remind myself daily — often dozens of times a day! — “Yes, you were hurt deeply as a little girl. She needed to be protected, and she wasn’t. But you are no longer that little girl. You don’t need to keep protecting yourself now.”

    • Cheri Gregory
      November 12, 2011

      (Oops! Hit “post” a bit too soon.)

      One of the hardest lessons for me to learn has been that just because I am feeling pain does not mean that anyone is actually hurting me at the moment. For decades, I’ve reacted defensively and self-protectively to every little thing — “using cannon balls to swat flies” as my dad would say! — letting out my first knee-jerk reaction from a place of damage and fear.

      As I’m learning to step back, pray for guidance, take time to reflect, and respond with maturity, I’m experiencing hope, peace, and joy that I used to think were available only to “other people”…not me.

    • Sheila
      November 12, 2011

      Thanks, Cheri! I’m glad it didn’t come across as too harsh. I was afraid it might. So thank you for that encouragement!

  8. Katy
    January 23, 2012

    Sheila, I just want to thank you for what you said in this. This is the first time I’ve stumbled across your site, and I definitely wasn’t expecting to find something so immediately applicable. I’m an abuse survivor, but not of childhood abuse. My roommate of 2 years was the abuser, and I don’t quite remember the beginning to even know how it started. It’s only been 2 months since I last had contact with her, a year since the last abusive incident, and I am at a point where I feel hopeless for any future relationship because of the fear of intimacy I developed. I’m a 21-year old who dreams of marriage and children yet is petrified at the mere thought of sex and some of the suggestions you have in your post. I suffer from flashbacks and have many “trigger points” that make even everyday interaction with friends difficult. Only in the last 2 months I’ve started coming out of “survival mode” in order to work through things, and that only increased the sense of hopelessness.

    But then I started reading the comments by other people and reread other parts of your post. What really struck me was the little girl image. A friend of mine over the summer was trying to help me, and that’s when I first saw that I had a “little girl Katy” inside me, a representation of how innocent I was before the abuse. In survival mode, she gets pushed back and ignored because getting through the day is more important. But staying in that, to use our words, lets my abuser continue to steal from me, to hurt me. I had never thought of it that way, or if I did I was too afraid to take that step out of the dark. It took a long time for me to admit what was going on and get their support to get out of it. It took longer to ask for help with the emotional wounds. Often I feel at a loss, that I’m too broken to fix because everything is so recent.

    But when I’m at my worst, God always leads me to someone who can help, or to a place like this. I want to be able to have a healthy sex life with my future husband, wherever he may be. I don’t want to be stuck in this pit. And I want to thank everyone here who has already commented because, though I didn’t expect to find anything while randomly browsing a blog, you all have given me such hope and encouragement to keep going. I am so often held back by fear, but God is challenging me to work through the emotional damage with Him, and I’m sad to admit that I was resisting because I was afraid of the pain healing often brings.

    I guess this was a very long-winded way of saying “thank you” to you all, and I apologize if I rambled a bit there. I am only recently learning that the experience and emotional damage of abuse is often similar despite the uniqueness of each situation, and I can finally recognize that just because my story is not that common doesn’t mean I can’t learn something from others. So thank you all for posting. You all have been an encouragement to me as I start down this road, and I just wanted to let you know that.

    • Sheila
      January 23, 2012

      So true, Katy! Every experience is unique, but God is there in all, and I’m glad that you found something helpful here! I hope I keep writing stuff that helps you.

  9. Hayley
    February 28, 2012

    Im just now finding this post through a link on your29 days and it’s amazing for me. I was abused by my father’s father as a small child then raped again as a teenager by a friend then I victimized myself through many “punishments”. I chose to hurt my body and force myself to have sex bc I felt its what I deserved for not protecting myself. I’ve been married for 2.5 years and I now have a 13 month old daughter. My husband and I constantly have arguments about sex and I make “promises to have sex once a week” with him so he will leave me be. Until I read this post and the 29 days I never realized I could enjoy sex. I want to for him bc he loves me and I know it hurts him that I don’t enjoy it or want it. I want to for me bc it’s a gift from God. Thank you for giving me hope and affirmation that sex is not dirty or wrong and that I should not be ashamed. This is a long, hard journey for me as I am coming up on the 13 year anniversary of my initial abuse BUT I WILL GET BETTER! I will do it for myself, for my husband and for my daughter. I want to be able to teach her the beauty of sex within the correct context when she is older. My mother was also abused so I’ve never heard the beauty of sex within marriage. I am excited and terrified at the same time for this journey but I will come out the other side a sexually healthy and God glorifying wife! To the ladies with negative responses and reactions this was my initial thought too but what I’ve learned is what’s easiest is normally sin. So this will be hard but what else about our “narrow way” to following Christ has been easy? Our preacher says if you’re life isn’t painful then you’re probably not following Christ! Think about it!? He suffered and we have been promised that we will endure just as he has. Why would suffering be good enough for our Master but not for ourselves!? God heals and He uses painful experiences to glorify himself and to draw us near. I know this is a long response but it’s so important that every aspect of our lives be worship and worship is to be joyful!! 

    Thank you so much!!

  10. L.K. Moore
    August 20, 2012

    Hi Sheila,
    I’m just getting started on the journey of healing from my childhood abuse. I’ve been married to a wonderful, loving husband for almost ten years this November. We have just had our first child, a daughter, who I’ve sworn to protect and defend from all forms of abuse. I pray over her daily that YHWH will secure her and keep her safe. I’m presently reading Dr. Dan Allender’s book, “The Wounded Heart.” I started to research sex after abuse and found your website and blog. I’ve started the 29 days, and found this article.

    It moved me to tears. I’m slowly realizing through “The Wounded Heart” that I’ve subconsciously relegated YHWH to the very distant, coldly aloof, unpredictable and negligent parent that “allowed” my abuse (and subsequent downward spiral of self-hating rebellion) to happen by looking the other way. Reading your words that He is “livid” about the abuse, and will fight for me hit me like a ton of bricks.

    I’ve always found sex supremely degrading and humiliating. I generally try to “check out” and plan my day or make grocery lists during sex. That’s when I’m not angry or silently raging against my husband for “putting me through it.” And reading some of the commentary above, I’m surprised to find how often abuse becomes a cycle of dysfunctional attitudes surrounding sex that are passed from parent to child…

    I can’t thank you enough for sharing your insight that sex is a gift, given from our Creator as an expression of unity and love. I’m hoping to order your “Good Girl’s Guide…” soon, but I just had to say thank you so much. I’m praying that YHWH will continue to give you the words to reach out to women. It must be so very gratifying to read our words and know that you are making such a difference.

    Shalom to you.

  11. Megan
    October 1, 2012

    I was abused when I was 18. It was my first semester in college and I was young and naive. It haunted me for years, I let others do what they wanted to me because that’s all I thought I was good for. I called a rape crisis counselor but when it went to voicemail I took it as God telling me if I really needed help she would have picked up the phone. I went into a downward spiral of drinking and almost failing out of college. My room mate took me to Church with her one Sunday and I started to feel better. I am now 31 and married and my husband knows about my past, but my problem is HIS past! He had sex with anyone and everyone he could and has several kids he has to pay for to prove it. I resent what he has done and start countless fights with him about it, when it’s out of my control and there is nothing I can do to change the past. What can I do to heal? What can I do to make it ok? He used to tell me about his past sexual encounters, about what was done or what went wrong…. Now when we have sex all I picture is him with other women and it drives me crazy. I have trouble believing he really loves me and wants to be with me when he could sleep with every woman that followed him home. How can I get rid of these feelings? It is starting to ruin our marriage and he has no clue how to help me and even gets angry with me about my thoughts towards it. I don’t want to ruin my marriage because of this. What can I do? I know this is not a typical post, and you may not have an answer. But I am desperate for some help on how to heal my crazy thougths and just enjoy my husband the way God intended me to.
    Thank you and God bless.

    • Sheila
      October 1, 2012

      Megan, I feel for you! I’m so glad that you’ve found healing for yourself, but yes, you definitely need healing for your husband’s past, too. I wrote a post about this recently here, and I hope that helps!

  12. D. Anne Pierce
    October 17, 2012

    Thank you for this important information. I was sexually abused as a teen and then in my marriage of 27 years. I have recently published an ebook on Amazon: “To Love and to Cherish…facing sexual abuse in marriage” by D. Anne Pierce. I hope that it will help women who find themselves in what they thought would be a Christian marriage but find instead that their husband is sexually abusive, sometimes in obvious ways and sometimes in subtle ways that may take years to detect, as women want to “please” and may not completely understand what abuse is or be ready to face it.
    The book outlines the steps to take when the realization comes that the marriage is in fact sexually abusive.

    Thank you again for speaking up and providing great and helpful information!
    D. Anne Pierce recently posted…Welcome to “Facing Sexual Abuse in Marriage”My Profile

  13. Liz M.
    May 14, 2013

    I was abused as a child, and through junior high and high school I really struggled. My story is a long one, but after years of stubbornness and finally at the edge and about to kill myself, I told God he had one last chance to save my life from the pit of that abuse, and he did. He took away my demons and started a long healing process in my soul that is still going on and probably will be for the rest of my life. But every day I wake up so excited to truly alive, eager to share my joy and hope with others, and desperately pining for the day when I get to see Jesus my lover face to face.

    When my husband and I were engaged, we spent a lot of time reading books, getting counseling help, and being mentored by a couple at church. We wanted to be fully prepared for marriage, as best as one can be–equipped with the tools to overcome the mountains that inevitably rise up. We spent a lot of time learning about how my abuse affected/would likely affect our communication, relationship, and future sex life. We read a great book, “Getting Your Sex Life Off to a Great Start” by Clifford and Joyce Penner, with baldfaced explanations and open discussion and information.

    Our first night was great. I was nervous for months leading up to our wedding, but the night before we got married, I prayed, “God, I need help.” And he was there and he helped, just like he always does. Thanks to God, our sex life has worked, and thanks to the tools we were given before marriage and to God’s faithfulness, we’ve weathered through hard times in our sex life and come out stronger. God has even worked miracles, at times where my mind just couldn’t get into sex, nor my imagination respond to what my husband was doing, and I would cry out to God, and he would sometimes take the obstacles away. We’ve had some nights that were a TEN on the scale for sure!

    But we’ve also had times that were tough. I’m still learning how to see my own body as sexual and be okay with that. I love my husband and think he’s the sexiest man in the world, and I know he loves me and I even know that I’m beautiful. But it’s hard for me to be OKAY with being beautiful, to feel that that’s a GOOD thing. I want sex, but sometimes it’s hard for me to respond or get in the mood because for years I programmed myself to flee any sexual thought or feeling out of fear. Even though the fear is gone, the programming remains. Some mornings and nights are an uphill battle, and my husband fights right alongside me because these are OUR dragons now, not just mine.

    The advice you gave about reframing how you see sex, especially how you see your body, is a helpful reminder to me. At this point in my journey, I need to get more used to my sexuality so I can learn to be happy, and not afraid, when I am aroused. Nakedness used to be very hard for me; I would hardly even stay naked after getting out of the shower. But I can be naked now without fear; the next step is to be EXCITED about being naked. I don’t know whether I’ll need these reminders the rest of my life, or not–whether my story will be about a constant battle that God nevertheless always worked our sexual intimacy out in, or about overcoming these difficulties once and for all. I trust God enough that I don’t care either way. But for the time being, we just keep learning new ways to reframe and work on sex, pushing out my fears and reclaiming the land of my soul and mind.

    Praise the Lord!
    Liz M. recently posted…When Bad Stuff Happened…My Profile

  14. T
    December 4, 2013

    I found this post looking for help. I am a sexual abuse survivor and my new husband (of 2 weeks!) and I are already having huge problems with sex. He knew about the abuse and I had told him there might be problems and that I was worried and scared about having sex, but he wasn’t prepared. The first few times I just cried and cried, I couldn’t cope. Now he feels unwanted and upset about it all, as much as he is trying to be understanding.
    Thank you for what you have written, some of it was helpful :).
    I wanted to add something too, in our (brand new! and inexperienced) marraige we have found one of the most helpful things is to pray together about it often, and to make a point to pray together about it before we do make love.

    • Sheila
      December 4, 2013

      So glad you found me, and you’re absolutely right–prayer works wonders! That’s so good.

  15. Hopeless
    December 14, 2013

    Thanks for your article. I have been struggling in my marriage for 10 years with sex. I was raped as a teenager and then again as an adult. At age 17 I started working as a topless dancer to escape my home. I worked in that industry for 15 yrs. I became dependent on drugs and alcohol to kill the pain. I was raised by my alcoholic mother who brought different men home all the time. At age 12 she was shot by a boyfriend and almost died. I watched her being raped when she was passed out drunk on the couch one night. My father was never in my life. He was diagnosed as schizophrenic when I was 4 yrs old. Needless to say my view on sex has not been good. To top things off my 3 yr old daughter was molested by my husbands step father 2 and 1/2 yrs ago. When I figured out what was going on and we confronted him he committed suicide. I have a ton of pain bottled up. I gave my life to Jesus 10 years ago when I married my husband. I have dealt with some much pain and guilt our entire marriage. I have never been able to please him, give him the sex he desires. He is the one who actually found this article and sent it to me. He refuses to give up lol. We have both prayed and prayed for healing over our sex life but until today we never realized why I was the way I have been. We have speculated the sex was ruined for me but never really opened it up. I have a wonderful Christian counselor I take my daughter to but I need to find one for myself. I have gone to her counselor with my husband a couple of times but honestly I don’t think she understands my abuse. Are there any tips for finding someone who specializes in this type of counseling? I am at rock bottom and actually told my husband today that I may need to leave for awhile to keep my sanity. I can no longer take him coming at me on a daily basis wanting sex. I am resenting him and sex. I love my husband and family and want to fix this so bad. I feel hopeless :(

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